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07 2011

YWCA on the World Stage

What a busy month it’s been.  To say that World Council was a meaningful and rich experience would be a major understatement.   The World YWCA, which hosts World Council held every 4 years, brought together 125 Member Associations connecting women from around the globe this year in Zurich, Switzerland.  We laughed hugged, shared, expressed hope and disappointment and knew with confidence that we were all part of a movement far greater than our national and cultural identities.

Of course one of the most exciting elements of the experience was our winning the inaugural Mary Robinson Award for Young Women’s Leadership in Human Rights. The award, shared with YWCA of Belize, recognizes YWCA Canada’s GirlSpace™, Power of Being a Girl™ and Young Women’s Leadership Miles programs for girls and young women. It was inspiring to represent our country and I remain deeply proud to have shared this journey with each member of the Canadian delegation

Other highlights included attending the International Women’s Summit where Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women for the United Nations (UN Women) and long-time champion of women’s rights, was keynote.  Ms. Bachelet addressed  inequality, sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV and violence as the nexus and agenda for women and girls over the next decade during the opening plenary and was incredibly moving.  Other highlights included presentations from renowned human rights activist, Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Abigail Disney, Series Producer, Women, War, Peace ; and Stephen Lewis, HIV/AIDS Human Rights activist.  Plenary sessions addressed claiming safe spaces for women and girls; ending violence against women and securing justice; and demanding accountability and resources for women; and featured workshops and panel presentations from our Canadian delegates.

What I’m left with upon return is that as a united global movement we are unstoppable in our quest to end violence against women and girls, protect women’s human and reproductive rights and provide leadership development opportunities for young women to take their rightful place in our movement.

I’d like to I extend a special thank you to our nominees – Jessica Notwell, Keitha McClocklin and Michelle Bullas for standing up and being counted. YWCA Canada is indeed an active movement of dynamic intergenerational women who are courageous and bold, even in disappointment. Thank you for standing despite the outcome. The future of our global movement is bright because of you.

For more details about our experiences at World Council, please visit our blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds for details and discussion about World Council activities and events.

With the support of our partners I am now heading off to Ghana for the 5th Biennial Conference of District Assemblywomen in Accra.  Organized by our project partners Abantu for Development, which provides training on political issues and election skills to women from across Ghana who are serving in their District Assemblies (the Ghanaian equivalent of municipal level politics) and Canadian Crossroads International, who work in partnership with some of West Africa’s most dynamic and respected women’s rights groups and community economic development organizations, I will be attending a national conference on women’s access and experiences in public service.  I will also seize the opportunity to visit with YWCA Ghana and bring greetings from YWCA Canada, while learning about the programs and services they provide.

It’s been an unbelievable month of international connections for me and the YWCA.  I’m honoured to be able to represent us in this important work and look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return.

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